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How Marie Kondo Can Improve Your Law Life

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These days, the Queen of Decluttering is everywhere.

Get ready: Marie Kondo is coming to your law office, and she wants to take your practice to the next level.

These days, the Queen of Decluttering is everywhere. And her core concept – that tidying up the spaces where we live and work improves productivity and peace of mind – is tailor-made for lawyers.

From a risk management perspective, a disorganized office is a dangerous office. Files are lost or misplaced. Deadlines get buried under piles of paperwork. Stress rises and efficiency declines.

And though decluttering sounds easy – just clear off your desk and take out the trash – the reality is quite different. Especially for lawyers. Out of habit or caution, we tend to hold on to things long past their expiration date. And even though the world has gone digital, many of us stubbornly cling to our paper.

The secret is to start small – and go slow.

“Changing lifestyle habits acquired over many years is often extremely difficult,” says Kondo.

Imagining a Cleaner Desk

It seems there’s no escaping Marie Kondo. She’s a best-selling author, star of the Netflix hit Tidying Up With Marie Kondo, and creator of a lifestyle brand that offers coaching, consulting and a comforting shoulder for your cluttered life.

Part of her appeal is that she keeps it simple. Her recipe for getting your life in order has six easy-to-understand rules, starting with a commitment to a tidier lifestyle and ending with bliss.

And though some of her prescriptions may seem out of place in the law office – Can a closed file spark joy? How to express gratitude for a 200-page memorandum on bankruptcy exemptions? – the underlying principles are sound.

“When working with my clients, I find that they are often not as productive as they could be because they aren’t organized and they don’t have good systems in place,” writes attorney Allison Shields, founder of Lawyer Meltdown and author of the blog LegalEase. “This creates clutter and confusion, leading to a vicious cycle of disorganization and poor productivity.”

6 Steps to a Decluttered Law Office

In this Lawyerist article, Shields suggests organizing your office in small steps:

  1. Clear out. “The first step in de-cluttering is to determine what you have by clearing everything out. Begin with one small area at a time, such as the top of your desk or one drawer.”
  2. Quick sort and purge. “Quickly sort each item into these piles: Toss, File (in office), File (elsewhere), To do (actual client or administrative work to be done or delegated), To read, Misc. in office (mementos, books, office supplies, that stay in your office), Misc. out of office (anything other than filing that belongs elsewhere).”
  3. Organize. “Once you have gotten rid of what does not belong, create a home for everything that is left. Organize your office by considering frequency of use and how often you need to access each item. The more you need it, the more accessible it should be. Store like items together. Ensure that high traffic areas are free from congestion.”
  4. Beware of “I need to see it” syndrome. “Too many lawyers keep piles of clutter because they think they need a physical reminder of what needs to be done or they will forget about it. But after a short period of time, you no longer ‘see’ that reminder; you just see the pile. Instead of keeping the entire file or constantly piling, create reminders for tasks to be accomplished and schedule work flow.”
  5. Schedule. “Schedule time on your calendar to accomplish individual tasks. Instead of holding onto an event flyer, enter it on your calendar with details like date, time and location. Then schedule a deadline on your calendar to decide whether you want to go to the event.”
  6. Maintain. “To keep your environment clutter free, you need to maintain it regularly. I recommend a quick 15-minute pick up at the end of the week, but you should schedule time for a more thorough de-cluttering every few months.”

Are you a neat freak or a cluttered counselor? What tips do you have for keeping your office under control?

Want to learn more ways to make your practice safer? Check out the Managing Your Office section of our Pro Practice Resource Center.

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